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Minor party challenge: Jim Davis, a Democrat running for his fifth term in Congress, faces Libertarian Robert Edward Johnson.

Published October 26, 2004

U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa has an opponent this election season: a political newcomer from a minor party.

Robert Edward Johnson, 47, moved to Tampa last year, bringing with him his Libertarian Party views of individual liberty, a free-market economy and a foreign policy that calls for nonintervention.

He sought to shake up the political system by gaining enough votes to put his party on the map, but after months of heavy campaigning, the computer consultant says he's looking for a victory.

"This is turning into a bigger race," Johnson said. "I am running to win."

Johnson wants to unseat Davis from the post he has held since 1996 by attacking his record on everything from the war to medical marijuana use.

With Davis' voting record an open book, Johnson refers to it liberally in his door-to-door quest for votes.

On the war front, Johnson says he never would have voted to invade Iraq and he wants to bring home all U.S. troops within two years.

Davis, meanwhile, voted to send the military into Iraq. He wants the administration to change its policy and reach out to other countries to join the United States in its endeavor for a free Iraq.

Davis voted against the decriminalization of medical marijuana for medical reasons; Johnson said he would have supported it.

Davis voted against the president's tax cut; Johnson would have voted for it.

And Davis fought for a state's right to object to oil and gas drilling off its shores to protect the environment; Johnson wants people to be able to do what they want with their property, as long as it doesn't harm others.

Of late, Johnson has been heavily campaigning with Libertarian leaders and supporters. His computer consultant job has been put on hold.

Davis, now running for his fifth term for Congress, says he wants voters to send him back because there's still more work to be done.

Among the issues he wants to take up in the next Congress: outsourcing, education and job training.

He also wants to see changes made to the Medicare prescription drug bill, revise the No Child Left Behind program and pay down the federal debt.

The moderate Democrat and deficit hawk won re-election automatically two years ago because no one ran against him.

He has been busy of late getting the House of Representatives to pass his amendment overturning the administration's new restrictions on family travel to Cuba.

He has also spent time in neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, Bradenton and Palmetto, getting to know his constituents.

"I take very seriously the fact that I'm up for a job review," Davis said.

Also running is local farmer Karl M. Butts, 51, who qualified as a write-in candidate.


The 11th congressional district includes a large portion of Hillsborough and slivers of Pinellas and Manatee counties. U.S. representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $158,100 annually.



JIM DAVIS , 47, has run eight times for state House and then Congress and has never lost. The Tampa native holds an undergraduate degree from Washington & Lee University in Virginia. He attended law school at the University of Florida and was a partner with the Tampa firm of Bush, Ross, Gardner, Warren & Rudy. Before heading to Washington, D.C., he served four terms in the Florida House of Representatives and was House majority leader for two years. Davis is married and has two sons. ASSETS: treasury securities and retirement fund. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: congressional salary. WEB SITE:


ROBERT JOHNSON , 46, is making his first run for public office. Raised in Arlington, Va., by moderate Democrats who had a portrait of Thomas Jefferson in their home, Johnson graduated from Princeton University with an economics degree. He lived in Plano, Texas, for about 10 years until his telecommuting job as a computer consultant brought him to Tampa. He runs his campaign from a studio apartment on Annie Street. He is divorced with two college-age children in Texas. ASSETS: savings and stock index funds. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: database administrator. WEB SITE:

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